In today’s article, which I intend to keep short, I thought I’d revisit an infographic that I created and put up here on the site some time ago. The reason I’m bringing this infographic out again instead of writing about something new is not that I have run out of ideas for things to write about (I haven’t), but rather that I think the infographic is the most important infographic I’ve ever created. I think it has the potential to be extremely impactful, in the sense that I believe the evolutionary mismatch concept it depicts could dramatically improve our modern health care system and change the way we as a species approach health, nutrition, and medicine.
Here’s the infographic…
Evolutionary mismatches drive the development of the diseases of civilization
I’m certainly not the first person who’s suggested that the primary reason why the typical modern man is in such poor health is that natural selection hasn’t gotten around to reconfiguring the human genome so that it matches well with the evolutionarily novel conditions we humans currently live under. Much of my work builds on the work of various fabulous scientists and evolutionary thinkers. That said, I have refined certain things that I felt needed to be refined. Moreover, I have come up with several mismatch-related concepts, ideas, and terms on my won, based on my experience and the knowledge I’ve accumulated about diet and health over the years.
The idea that evolutionary mismatches underlie a plethora of diseases and health problems and that evolutionary health principles can greatly enhance the health of contemporary Homo sapiens is supported by a massive body of evidence (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). The concept outlined in the infographic above certainly won’t help us prevent and combat every disease or health problem under the sun; however, there is no doubt in my mind that it’s very useful for dealing with the diseases of civilization, as well as a variety of health problems that are not strictly classified as diseases.
By combining the principles that are integral to that concept with other principles of Darwinian medicine, as well as the best of what mainstream medicine has to offer, we can potentially make some significant headway towards creating effective prevention and treatment programs for many diseases. The goal is obviously not to return to the Stone Age, but rather to apply Darwinian science to medicine and adjust our modern environment (including our diet and lifestyle and the microbial communities we harbor) so that it better agrees with our genomes. We live in a very different environment than our primal ancestors and we also live longer. Moreover, the human genetic and epigenetic makeup have changed somewhat over the most recent millennia. Hence, we won’t necessarily be able to eradicate all the chronic ills that plague us via mismatch resolution. That said, evolutionary health principles can certainly help us reduce our risk of getting sick.
What can be achieved by bringing evolutionary health principles into the open?
A lot of people are reluctant to change the way they eat and live their lives. They just want a quick fix that’ll take care of the health problems that plague them and/or give them a fit, strong body. Hence, not everyone is going to embrace evolutionary health principles. It’s primarily those people who are willing to take responsibility for their own health and who are prepared to put in some effort to get and stay healthy who’ll benefit if evolutionary health principles were widely promoted.
What’s very important to point out though is that we have a lot to gain from building the evolutionary mismatch concept into the foundations of our health system irrespective of whether people are going to actively act on it or not. The reason is that it can greatly enhance our understanding of health and disease. Darwinian science can refine and bring order to medicine and help health professionals organize their thoughts and ideas about nutrition, health, and disease. By acknowledging that every life form on this planet evolve via Darwinian process and that organismal health and fitness are tightly linked in Darwinian evolution, we also acknowledge, by implication, that all medical-related concepts, theories, and ideas have to be rooted in evolutionary science to be valid. In other words, Darwinian medicine can help us understand disease, as well as prevent and treat disease.
What does the future hold?
It seems unlikely that Darwinian medical principles will be brought into mainstream medicine anytime soon, in part because the pharmaceutical industry is very influential and because the medical establishment greatly underestimates the powers of evolutionary science. That doesn’t mean the evolutionary mismatch concept doesn’t stand a chance of reaching the average Joe and Jane though. Today, most people’s primary source of information about diet and health is the internet, not doctors or hospital personnel. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up for debate. There’s at least one upside to this situation though, and that is that powerful and scientifically sound concepts, theories, and medical solutions that are either ignored or overlooked by the medical establishment stand a chance of being discovered by the average person even though they are not known about by most mainstream health professionals.